CatholicCulture.orgWhat the Charlotte controversy reveals about the acceptance of Catholic teaching
By Dr. Jeff Mirus | April 03, 2014 2:01 PM
News coverage is now available for the resolution of complaints about Sister Jane Dominic Laurel’s controversial presentation at a Catholic high school in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Nashville Dominican sister spoke at a school assembly about Church teaching on marriage, divorce, homosexuality and gay marriage, and on the impact the disregard of Catholic teaching and the natural has on children growing up in broken our unnatural home environments.
Complaints were numerous enough that a special meeting was called to discuss the matter, and diocesan officials decided to apologize for two things: First, that the school had not notified parents of the assembly and its sensitive contents; and second, that Sister Jane Dominic would have been better advised to leave out the data she used on the last portion of her talk, data which shows the deleterious effects on children of aberrant marital arrangements, because the value of that data is debated.
This resolution meets the minimum standard I proposed in my original discussion of this incident, “that any appropriate apology or correction will be accompanied by a clear reaffirmation of the reality of Divine Revelation and the certainty of Catholic teaching on these important subjects.” The apologies made do affirm Church teaching, in that it is specifically stated that the presentation did conform to Catholic doctrine. Problems are acknowledged only in the handling of certain data.
I have no objection to the statement that parents should have been forewarned (even though this may also have been met with a negative reaction). But the second apology is weak for two reasons. The first reason is the one I gave in my original discussion:
[ I]t is imperative that nothing be allowed to detract from what ought to become an even more spectacular teaching moment. Therefore, it would be even better to avoid distracting side issues altogether. This means extending the benefit of any doubt to Sr. Jane Dominic, such that the correctness of her presentation of the Church’s infallible teaching is reaffirmed and defended without a single caveat.
The second reason is that the data on the impact of aberrant marital situations on children is overwhelming in showing that these children are far more likely to suffer emotional instability, uncontrolled anger, severe insecurity, and affective disorders throughout their lives. This or that piece of data may be debated, but the only people who contest the massive weight of the data as a whole are those who are championing an artificial vision of reality opposed to the natural law. Lending credibility to this sort of “debate”, which is absolutely unavoidable no matter what sociological studies prove, is one of those distractions which should not have been admitted. I fear that the second apology as phrased by the diocese’s vicar for education gives away too much in an effort to placate those who loudly objected to the talk, though the chaplain who arranged the assembly, Fr. Matthew Kauth, issued a better and more explanatory statement.
As far as I have been able to determine from the limited correspondence I received from some of those who objected to Sr. Jane Dominic’s presentation, the tactic chosen for the formal complaint was to insist that nobody was questioning Church teaching. Rather, the formal complaint was against the presentation of the alleged familial consequences of ignoring Church teaching. Such practical data was referred to in a variety of ways, such as “scare tactics” and “hateful”. Thus, for example, the presentation was deemed hurtful to single parents struggling to raise children under difficult circumstances; and also hurtful in that it indicated that gays could not, in actual practice, be fit parents. In this sense, the objection gave the Catholic officials a way out, and they took it.A Much Deeper Problem
But it is just here that we recognize a more subtle but also much deeper problem. If you read the news report, you will see that tempers were very high over this problem of “data”, and that those who thought the whole presentation was just fine were shouted down. What this means is that there were many people professing to accept Church teaching (or at least choosing not to object to its presentation in a Catholic school) who nonetheless became extremely upset because the actual demonstrable practical consequences of living in opposition to Church teaching were enumerated.
We have slipped here into a pattern all too common in Catholic life today: The idea that the Church may teach something (yeah, yeah) but it really doesn’t matter. People can do what they deem best, and their way for them will be as good as anything. This attitude is false, and Sister Jane Dominic committed the cardinal sin of demonstrating its falsity. In point of fact, “their way for them” will not be as good as anything. It will not only be spiritually deadening, but also have disastrous concrete, practical consequences, including negative impacts on others which are statistically measurable.
The acceptance of Church teaching must go beyond theoretical assent to a lived commitment, and that lived commitment includes an awareness of the many deeply unfortunate consequences of living in denial of the realities which Church teachings (and the natural law) describe.
It is for this reason that parents who are raising children in the aftermath of divorce, spousal death, or abandonment face such a difficult challenge. Insofar as they bear responsibility for the broken family, this is seriously sinful. Insofar as they do not, it is a heavy cross. They need to know that it will take a life of prayer, heroic virtue and grace to prevent the consequences from injuring their children. They also need to know that with God all things are possible. But the last thing they need is to believe it is no big deal.
The same realities apply to children raised by gay “parents”. It is true that some gay “parents” can be better at some aspects of parenting—for example, ensuring physical safety or helping with math homework—than parents in families founded on true marriage. It is also true that not all gay “parents” will deliberately abuse their children, whereas some real parents will in fact do so. But all of this is beside the point. It is actually intrinsically abusive to place a child in a home to be raised by gay “parents”, or to permit gay “parents” to manufacture children for themselves under any circumstances. In addition to being a deliberate violation of a child’s natural right to be raised by a mother and a father, at the very least gay “parenting” is deeply abusive in terms of the normal affective development of the child.
We cannot “play house” without dire consequences. There is a natural order to things which, when we fail to perceive it in nature, is made clear to us through Revelation and Catholic doctrine. The consequences of evading and denying that order are both naturally and supernaturally grave. Refusing to admit the consequences is a cultural accommodation and a self-deception that actually rises to the level of practical dissent. An authentic recognition and response to reality is an important part of what it means to accept the teachings of the Church.